Renaming 101: When Is a Name Change a Good Idea?
When we’re brought on to help rename an organization, we often encounter two lines of thinking: Some people see a brand name as simply a handle, while others see it as a strategic tool to communicate what makes them different.
As naming strategists, we’re firmly in the latter camp. We recently presented to a client (a large consulting organization with major government and commercial clients) whose three-initial name did not convey the boldness of their vision, nor do justice to what they’ve accomplished. This organization had grown through acquisition and now had a name that didn’t resonate with anyone—it didn’t convey what they do, inspire employees or connect with clients. Our recommendation was that they change their name to reflect a new vision for the future. We argued they’d see significant benefits from adopting a more meaningful name, vs. simply investing in building awareness for three initials. But renaming is a big decision, often involving considerable tradeoffs. How can you make sure that renaming is the right choice for you?
3 Considerations for Changing Your Name
There are several considerations you should take before you set out to rename your company or brand. Going through each step carefully can help you find more strength in how you feel about your name and your brand.
1. Do you have alternatives to your existing name that convey your message and vision more clearly? If not just to say, “We can do better than this,” creating a list of possible new names can help broaden your perspective.
2. What obstacles are there to changing your name? Do you have significant real estate holdings? Do you put your name on products around the world? Do your employees use costly branded equipment? High costs may be associated with a name change, and the earlier you figure that out, the better.
3. What opportunities could arise? This name change could open up a variety of opportunities for internal engagement and enthusiasm, even better alignment with the business you’re in. It also has the capability of enhancing how existing and new customers perceive your brand.
Our client, Westin Hotels, was originally known as Western International. Each property of theirs was branded under its own name—the corporate brand was absent. As a result, the hotel chain made nowhere near the collective impact of competitive brands like Hilton and Hyatt. A new corporate name was recommended to make Western’s holdings fall under one name with differentiating qualities. However, when it came time to move forward with a decision, the chairman—who began his career as a bellhop—did not want to erase the legacy that he had helped to create. Instead, “Western International” became Westin—a combination of old and new—and a new brand with the same legacy was born.
When do you NOT change your name?
In our experience, there are times when we’ve realized that it is not in our client’s best interest to change their name. Oftentimes it comes down to history, logistics, cost and even politics. While a completely new name may at first seem like a wise decision, it may not be necessary.